Fired? It Might Not Necessarily Be Your Job Performance...

Have you ever been fired? Laid off? Terminated? Cut? Made redundant?

It doesn't matter what it's called, it's often the same thing. The bottom line is that your position, and specifically, your place in it, were eliminated.

The key to ongoing success and promotion in employment is communication. Make sure that you develop a good rapport with your manager and your organization's leaders. Having strong two-way communications can often avoid misunderstandings, help you plan for the future, and maintain your professional reputation.

There are times when a termination is deserved - if you violated a company policy, your performance was sub-par, or you otherwise did something that merits parting ways with your employer, a company is going to exercise its right to let you go.

But in all my years in Human Resources, I've witnessed enough terminations to see clearly that it isn't necessarily due to a "terminatable offense". Here are but a few of the reasons a company may choose to part ways with you, even when you've given your best effort and have followed the company handbook to the letter.

  1. Costs need to be reduced. Business is tough all around, and your job is vulnerable. You fall victim to a layoff.
  2. Your manager doesn't like you. Perhaps you and your manager just don't share the same outlook on the world. Personalities matter - people like to work with people they like. And sometimes, there's nothing you can do about it.
  3. Your manager is new to the company and wants to bring in his/her team. Your manager had a lieutenant and the last company they know and trust. Your job is the one role that person can fill.
  4. Topgrading. I'm going to oversimplify here for the sake of clarity. Topgrading is a talent management philosophy where they company rates all its employees every year, and puts them into a forced curve. The individuals perceived to be on the bottom of the curve are culled from the workforce. Even if you met all your objectives and your work has been solid, your performance is perceived to be lower than your peers, so you're out.
  5. Changing skill requirements. As the business changes, the skills required in the organization may change. If the company is going to be programming in Visual Basic, and you're a COBOL developer, your role in the organization may not be relevant.
  6. The Peter Principle. Individuals who perform well in a role tend to be recognized with a promotion to a higher level. What happens when you lack the skills to survive at that higher level is the Peter Principle, the cynical belief that people rise to the level of their incompetence. I hate to say this, but it does happen. For example, a marketer may be great as a brand manager, but once they get promoted to a leadership role, they don't possess the people and vision skills to survive at this elevated position. Sometimes it's sink or swim.
  7. A mistake follows you. Let's say you had a bad day, and were short with a coworker. Somebody witnessed it. Then, in your performance appraisal it comes up that you have poor interpersonal skills, as validated by this same incident. When it comes time to rank the workforce (see #4), you end up in the bottom of the pack due to your lack of people skills.
  8. Pressure from above. You give a presentation to the CEO, and it failed to impress. The CEO makes clear to your manager that your fit with the direction of the organization is questionable. Rather than defend your overall performance, which has been solid, your manager feels it would be easier to push you out of the organization and replace you with a new face.

Bottom Line: Do your best to be astutely aware of your work situation. And know that sometimes, it may just be time to move on.

Scott Singer is the President and Founder of Insider Career Strategies Resume Writing & Career Coaching, a firm dedicated to guiding job seekers and companies through the job search and hiring process. He is a Human Resources professional and staffing expert with almost two decades of in-house corporate HR and staffing firm experience, and is a Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW) and Certified Professional Career Coach (CPCC).

Insider Career Strategies provides resume writing, LinkedIn profile development, and career coaching services, including a free resume review. You can email Scott Singer at, or via the website,